Medical City Plano
December 20, 2018

Heated chemotherapy lowers cancer recurrence

Cancer survivor Robin Harris of Arlington is back at work and enjoying life with her family, thanks to a "heated chemotherapy" treatment for late-stage abdominal cancer now available at Medical City Plano.

The treatment, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, combines heated chemotherapy with surgery to more efficiently kill cancer cells in patients with abdominal cancers such as colorectal, appendix and peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer of the abdominal lining).

When Harris, 53, went to have a noncancerous tumor removed from her back, the surgeon discovered stage IV appendix cancer. She was referred to surgical oncologist Sharmila Roy Chowdhury, MD, who began performing HIPEC at Medical City Plano earlier this year.

"His treatment for people like Robin, who have cancer limited to the abdomen, involves first surgically removing any tumors inside the abdomen," Dr. Roy Chowdhury explained. "Then, while still in surgery, the chemotherapy solution is heated to about 107 F° and pumped into the patient's abdomen, where it circulates for about 90 minutes. The heat itself works against the cancer cells – they are susceptible to the heat and die from the heat. Plus, the chemo penetrates the cancer cells more efficiently when they're heated. This reduces the risk of the cancer returning."

Harris, a busy mother and grandmother who works at DFW International Airport, trusted Dr. Roy Chowdhury to help her get back to her active life, which includes bike rides and 5K walks with her daughter.

"My cancer's gone. I don't have to have any more chemo treatments," Harris said with a smile. "I feel a lot better and I'll be able to see my grandkids and play with them. I had all the confidence in the world in Dr. Roy Chowdhury's ability to do it. She has a way of explaining things that allows you to really understand what's going to happen."

Published clinical studies have concluded that if visible tumors can be surgically removed, HIPEC can extend and increase quality of life in patients with cancer that has spread throughout the abdomen. HIPEC can also be effective for people who have ascites, a chronic buildup of fluid in the abdomen. In these cases, HIPEC is administered through a scope that does not require a large incision.

Watch Robin's journey of hope.